In 1984, Robert Cialdini released a book called Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. In it, he intellectualized the concept of “social proof" describing a psychological and social phenomenon wherein people copy the actions of others in an attempt to undertake behavior in a given situation.
It gave a conceptual framework to something that the best marketers subconsciously knew - that nothing sells better than reflecting the customer’s own actions back at them.
Before we get to utilize social proof, we need a way to get that information. The big question here is, how do we get to see the world as our customers see it? How might we put ourselves in their headspace?
Sure you can scan different websites, social media, or even look at competitors however, your wasting time because at best, you’re walking blind, and at worst, it’s the blind leading the blind.
In this article, I would like to talk about how marketers can get the data they need to gather social proof and understand how customers see the world.
Enter: case studies.
Let’s talk about what they are, and how you can utilize them to help your product marketing.
What is a case study?
For our purposes, you can consider a case study as an in-depth customer conversation to help understand how a customer uses our product - getting to know who they are, why they use our product and the context in which they use it.
This is how you get inside of your customer’s head. When you have multiple deep customer conversations over a period of time, you’ll get a better understanding of what drives them and you’ll be able to transform your marketing to something that makes sense to them.
Let’s talk about how you make one.
How do you build a case study?
Case studies are no different than conducting any other interview.
When conducting a proactive conversion with customers, it’s critical that you understand what you want, use open-ended questions, and analyze carefully.
What do you want?
Every time you have a conversation with a customer, there are so many directions to follow up on. That is why writing an outline, and being very clear about what you want from the conversation, help you stay on track.
Your question set should be short - no more than five questions. Make sure that there is no way someone can give a one-word answer - these questions need to be open-ended. You want to have a conversation, one that is free-flowing and that means focusing on the customer and the environment.
Make sure you sit with these conversations for a while. Take the time to get good quotes that are interesting and align with your values. Check to see if the language on your marketing materials match how your customers talk. All of your customers belong to some sort of “world” everything that comes from this.
It may seem simple from what we’re discussing, however, as you start to put this plan into action, you’ll see how much data you’ll collect, and how closely you can match the mental model of your customers.
Case studies work
When you have that data, you’ll be able to build artifacts that match your customer’s mental model.
What are some artifacts that can come from doing a case study?
When talking to your customer doing the case study, they may say a bite-sized anecdote that sums up a feature or your product in a helpful way. These are great to use on a sales page or product page, as it gives your product more credibility.
Your blog, if you have one, can highlight users. Writing an article or using the case study conversation as a post can help customers see, in a more relaxed context, how your product works for them.
For more technical products, it's critical that you give someone a look at how the product functions in a more academic format. Your case studies will help write a white paper by giving you anchor points led by the customer.
And many more.
Customers want to tell their stories. When your product is great, rest assured they are doing it anyway. Most of the time, they are happy to spend time with you and your team and give you good feedback, and more importantly, the social proof you need to stand above the rest of the marketplace.